Anime Review: Kino's Journey

By Drew Hurley 19.03.2018

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Kino's Journey (UK Rating: PG)

Based on a light novel series from back in the year 2000, Kino's Journey tells the tale of a young girl travelling with her AI motorcycle across a strange world, where every town is its own "country" with its own unique way of life. It seems a beautiful world, but beneath the surface, every country has dark truths and dangerous histories. This original anime series, released in 2003, consists of 13 episodes and is available from 19th March, courtesy of Anime Limited.

Kino's Journey is a collection of stories that play out around the protagonist and her vehicular companion, Hermes, but the star of the show is actually the world itself. Each episode sets up the premise for each of the different countries and then tells some beautiful and haunting stories based around those settings. It's a narrative structure only occasionally seen in anime, where each episode focuses on the people Kino meets instead of on Kino. Anyone who has seen or read Natsume's Book of Friends will see big parallels between the two.

Kino has decided to never spend more than three days in a single place, giving the story a real road-trip-cum-travel-blog vibe. Each episode sees Kino visit a location or two, or meeting people along the road on her path to the next destination. Each interaction often sets up charming stories in beautiful environments, but there is always a twist or a dark tone to surprise the viewer. Take, for example, the episode "Land of Adults." Kino herself is a fairly mysterious character until this episode, where her history finally gets to take centre stage. The truth to her past shows that she grew up in a town where every child is effectively given a lobotomy at age 12, making them "adults" and forcing them into a life of happy servitude. When she questions her destiny, things don't go well. From then to now Kino has become proficient with keeping herself safe, carrying enough blades and guns to ensure nothing interferes with her journey. A wise decision considering some of the people she meets along the way.


 
One of the very best episodes in the entire series has a simplistic story, but it's one that is impactful. The episode is "Three Men on the Rails" and sees Kino travelling along an old railway track and speaking with three men, one laying track, one lifting track, and one cleaning track. The futility of human effort, and the pointlessness of living just to work, is examined along with the nature of following instructions without question. Every episode is stuffed with these sorts of messages and while it gets a little preachy from time to time, every episode is enjoyable.

This is a 15-year-old show and it is showing its age here. It was produced by studio A.C.G.T which was responsible for numerous series at the time and all received some rather dodgy CG. Series like The New Fist of the North Star and the fourth series of Initial D. It's not particularly bad; it's just a rather mediocre production. There are some nice, stylistic moments that just end up looking dull thanks to the technical limitations. On the audio front, this release delivers both the original Japanese and a full English dub. Considering the nature of the show, Kino and Hermes are the only recurring characters, however, the voice actors in both English and Japanese are utterly unremarkable actors who went on to do very little else and it shows why here.

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Kino's Journey is a series that delivers heartfelt and impactful stories that speak to the nature of life and humanity in surprisingly philosophical tones. The standalone nature of the stories fits fantastically with these sorts of stories, too, and makes the episodes worth a re-watch. That being said, an overarching narrative would have been nice, as would have some extra characterisation of the leading pair. Those issues, combined with the lacklustre presentation, have a big impact on the final product. Those who enjoy this original series will be happy to hear that each of the issues may be addressed thanks to a new season of anime released just last year.

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